The previous (and début) SOS Comedy (Gig 89) saw a reboot of stupid theatre duo Gold & Brass (myself and Lee Fenwick). The intention was always to follow it up with another G&B sketch this month, and after having the idea of what it was going to be about, it was relatively easy to write.
This left the question of what, if anything, I would do as a solo piece. It’s been a while since I’ve written any new character material, so I didn’t have anything obvious to try. I did quite fancy doing something else with Terry Dowling – a character I really love performing as – but, again, I didn’t have anything lined up. Then I remembered my Roy Walker story.
This bit of material started out life as an idea for a one-liner based on Roy Walker and his catchphrases. The problem I had was that in order to make the punchline work, I ended up with 90 seconds of set up. At this point, the joke would usually be thrown in the bin, but I’m unusual so it wasn’t. There was something about having a really boring, wordy set up capped off by a pretty lame punchline that I found really funny. I also have a habit of starting my sets with bits that don’t seem like they’re going anywhere, and this fitted that bill perfectly.
I tried it out first at Gig 27, where I was able to get some kind of positive reaction (according to my somewhat vague post). The joke’s next appearance was at Gig 35, where it didn’t really work. From re-reading the post for that gig, it seems I was too distracted by some of the audience being too young to get the reference, whilst worrying that some aggressive looking men were about to start heckling, for it to ever have worked. I guess this experience soured me to the material for a while, and, although I really liked it, I didn’t know what to do with it. The problem with doing an intentionally unfunny piece of material is that people might think that you’re just unfunny.
Six months passed and I’d largely forgotten about Roy and his fictional failed marriage. Whilst lying in the bath, wondering what I could do at an upcoming Magical Animals, I was struck with an idea: if the set up felt drawn out over 90 seconds, how would it feel if it lasted 4 minutes? The conceit I came up with was that I would start by mentioning that I’d been reading RW’s autobiography and then inadvertently start telling the story, before realising that I was running out of time and start hurriedly trying to complete the story (whilst getting frustrated at not being able to perform my “real” material). By elongating the story it meant that I could add more stupid bits in, but the comedy would be mainly derived from my increasingly desperate attempts to finish.
And this is what I did at Gig 65, which thankfully went really well. The next challenge would be to make it last for 10 minutes. Which I did 10 days later at Gig 67, which again went really well. In fact, it was one of my favourite ever gigs. It probably wasn’t the best audience reaction I’ve ever received, but to have made the material work at all made it feel like a real achievement. I couldn’t wait to try it again, and only had a couple of weeks before I unleashed it to utter indifference at Gig 69.
I guess I knew that the routine would fail eventually, but it was still disappointing. Frustratingly, I was the architect of my own downfall. The set is all about the audience and their reaction to me becoming embroiled in retelling Roy’s life story. In Gigs 65 & 67, it felt as though the audience had bought into it quite early, so I was able to develop the story and work off their reactions. On this occasion, the opening part of the set was met with silence. At this point I should have broken away from what I was saying at directly addressed the audience’s indifference. Instead, I ploughed on with the story. Although I may not have fully have won the audience over by breaking away, this would have been in line with the intent of the material. The approach that I took meant that I ended up just telling a boring story.
Gig 69 was on the 1st August last year. Another 6 month gap. I hadn’t intended to leave it for so long, but I guess I was looking for the right opportunity to resurrect it and when nothing suitable came along, I guess I forgot about it. Anyway, you won’t be surprised to learn that I decided to do it as Terry. I have a real sense of freedom when I perform as Terry; I seem to know what he would say in any given situation. He’s also supposed to be someone who is trying to perform comedy without any talent or ability (or even a real concept of what comedy is). This seemed to suit the material and the idea of him getting further and further away from performing his intended set, as the story progresses.
As I’ve not got the story written down I was relying on being able to remember it. Thankfully it all came flooding back by just having a run through (although there may be bits I’ve forgotten that I’ve forgotten). After that I did my usual trick of practising while driving, which I made sure I did with Terry’s teeth in (I can’t do his voice properly without them). For the Gold & Brass sketch, we met up on the afternoon of the gig to rehearse. It only took a couple of run throughs and we had it sorted.
Wow, this post is really dragging, isn’t it? I don’t know why I felt the need to write the life history of the Roy Walker material, but it’s done now. Don’t worry, I’ll try and move things along. And, yes, I do realise the irony of me writing this bit and actually making the post even more drawn out.
Terry was on in the first half of the show. The audience’s reaction to it seemed to fit into three categories those who thought it was really funny, those who didn’t find it at all funny and those who were utterly baffled. I was pleased with my performance of it, and there seemed to be enough people who liked it, but because there was a mixed reaction it’s difficult to gauge exactly how it went.
Gold & Brass was in the second half of the show. I’m always a little nervous about forgetting my lines for these sketches, but, barring a slight cock-up at the end, it went pretty well. I think it went down OK with the audience, but I get so wrapped up in acting it out that, again, it’s hard to know exactly how it went.
It felt like a slightly strange gig in that I really enjoyed both performances and they seemed to get decent reactions, but I came away with a slight feeling of it not having gone well. I don’t really know why that was, but it’s a disconcerting feeling. Maybe the reason that I feel that it didn’t go well was that it didn’t go well. In which case, the idea that the individual bits received decent reactions might be entirely bogus. In which case, it’s possible that on any occasion that I feel that I’ve had a decent reaction I might not have done. In which case, does this mean that I’m one of those acts that’s deluded about how well they’ve done? I think being deluded about how well I’ve done is perhaps my biggest worry. I’d rather be crap than deluded. It would also be nice not to be so paranoid about this things. Such is life.
Regardless of all my navel gazing, I came away from the night still with the ambition of stretching my Roy Walker bit out for a full 20 minute spot. Maybe one day…